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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When the World was Young
Thanks to a generous donation from her Uncle young American actress Sally Jay Gorce is in Paris in the 1950's. She is affectionate, optimistic, feckless and given to falling in love with unsuitable men. Like her creator she rather brave and clear sighted. Sally Jay is delightfully funny and well aware of her own failings.
I am indebted to Rachel Cooke whose...
Published on 1 Sep 2011 by Walter M. Holmes

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "What's the use of remembering anything? If it was unpleasant it was unpleasant and if it was pleasant it's over."
Disappointing. The heroine Sally Jay was shallow and irritating. I liked the descriptions of Parisian life and many of the characters but around the halfway mark I started to struggle to finish it - grimly hung on for the surprise ending - probably very racy and madcap in the 1950s but it didn't draw me in.
Published on 7 Dec 2011 by Ethel the Unready


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When the World was Young, 1 Sep 2011
Thanks to a generous donation from her Uncle young American actress Sally Jay Gorce is in Paris in the 1950's. She is affectionate, optimistic, feckless and given to falling in love with unsuitable men. Like her creator she rather brave and clear sighted. Sally Jay is delightfully funny and well aware of her own failings.
I am indebted to Rachel Cooke whose excellent article in the "Guardian" prompted me to re-read this novel. I can vouch for the sense of authenticity that it gives and though while in Paris around that time I never did meet anyone quite like Sally Jay the chaotic life of expatriate Montparnasse that she describes certainly rings true. The comments on the differences between Saint-Germain and Montparnasse reveal the author's eye for detail.
Never having read them I can make no comment on the more recent authors mentioned but I do suggest that Truman Capote's Holly Golightly, created at about the same time, is more a creature of male fantasy than of reality. Dundy's heroine in not particularly judgmental but there is an underlying self-doubt and insecurity about her that makes her far more than some icon for 'women's liberation'.
There have been a few distortions of the past on television recently and it would be a pity if any reader of this novel were to be weighed down by false assumptions. It was written to be enjoyed and is best read as such. There's a bit more too it than that, of course, and Dundy's autobiography "Life Itself" is revealing while "The Old Man and Me", another first person novel, is remarkably frank for its time.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An American in Paris, 6 May 2004
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This review is from: The Dud Avocado (VMC) (Paperback)
Problem: You feel like reading something that's witty and light-hearted but not so embarrassingly girly that it makes you feel like you should be wearing fluffy pink slippers and call your beloved "snookums". You loved "Cold Comfort Farm" by Stella Gibbons and "In The Pursuit of Love" by Nancy Mitford. You have been known to dream of Parisian boulevards and bohemian attic flats in Montparnasse. The thought of strolling down Boule Mich in an evening gown makes you feel all warm inside.
Solution: The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy, following the adventures and misadventures of Sally Jay Gorce. In the proud tradition of Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, Sally Jay is an American in Paris, sardonic and enamoured at the same time, and determined to soak up everything the Moving Feast of Lights can offer. In contrast to Ernst or Gertrude, though, she is more busy flitting around cafes and pursuing a very modest stage career than devoting herself to High Art. She just wants to live, damn it! And that's exactly what she does, mixing with shady aristocrats, hustlers, painters and Southern belles from the Left Bank to Biarritz.
Sally Jay's streetsmart voice conveys a great sense of time and place. The fifties slang is really cute, and it's interesting to see the how the Home-makers of America moral values prevailed even in bohemian Paris. Even though some plotlines seem a bit weak (without giving too much away: how traumatic is it to lose a passport, for example?), the charm and exuberance of this book makes it seem churlish to complain. You could definitely do worse than party in Paris with Sally Jay.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all time favourite books, 29 Nov 2001
This review is from: The Dud Avocado (VMC) (Paperback)
I fell head over heels in love with Sally Jay Gorce when I read this book. She is eccentic, intelligent, self aware, intelligent and witty
but succumbs to self doubt and lack of experience. Rarely do you encounter a character so real. This book is a joy from first sentence to last. I never wanted it to end. Perfect.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Light-hearted, but bold and inspiring, 31 July 2014
'The Dud Avocado' is worth a read because it paints a vivid and exciting picture of Paris in the 50s, and has a heroine who's incredibly modern and liberated for her time. Dundy's creation of a character who so completely breaks the mould is undeniably admirable. Sally Jay Gorce dyes her hair pink, has ill-considered affairs and revels in living alone for two years with Paris as her playground. She is a passionate character full of charm and wit, but all too aware of her flaws, and this makes her a pleasantly engaging narrator. The novel follows her various exploits as she socialises (and more) with colourful characters and becomes an actress. It is a light and fun novel about a young woman determined to really live. Sally Jay captures you with her determination to squeeze truly satisfying experiences out of life and relish every pleasurable moment of her youth. The story perfectly conveys the sense of being young, discovering yourself, seeking adventures and making mistakes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "What's the use of remembering anything? If it was unpleasant it was unpleasant and if it was pleasant it's over.", 7 Dec 2011
Disappointing. The heroine Sally Jay was shallow and irritating. I liked the descriptions of Parisian life and many of the characters but around the halfway mark I started to struggle to finish it - grimly hung on for the surprise ending - probably very racy and madcap in the 1950s but it didn't draw me in.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Dated!, 20 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Dud Avocado (VMC) (Paperback)
The item arrived on time, in good condition but I was disappointed with the novel itself. The Guardian had recommended it some weeks ago as an interesting novel about an independent woman living her life in the nineteen-fifties. It may have been ground-breaking back then, though I doubt it, but the character and the style of writing are very dated. The protagonist is twee, self-consciously quirky, and extremely pleased with herself. She exists only in relation to the men in her life, which I don't consider to be 'living her life as an independent woman.'
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3.0 out of 5 stars Girl on the loose in Paris, 25 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Dud Avocado (VMC) (Paperback)
Although a great deal of humour in this book and the vignettes of some of the characters are superb, I found Sally Jay's musings could be a bit monotonous and as a privileged Yank in Europe in the fifties I became annoyed at her lack of ambition, purpose etc. Perhaps this is not unusual for the times, after the dark days of WWII but an interesting book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Autobiog, 11 Sep 2013
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This was a book club choice and completely wonderful. The writer makes the idea of going to Paris to be a starving artist type juggling various lovers, being treated badly by life and growing up in the process a timeless and universal experience.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Young American's Year Off in France (in the Fifties), 9 July 2013
This review is from: The Dud Avocado (VMC) (Paperback)
Sally Jay Gorce kept running away in search of adventure when she was a girl, but since her rich uncle when she was thirteen promised her two years out after college, she's been as good as gold and has instead read lots of books. (I'm sceptical of the psychology here: when you're thirteen, isn't twenty-one the impossibly distant future?) Now she's twenty-one and in Paris, the lover of a rich diplomat who meets her at the Ritz and the friend of a wild group of left-bank artist-intellectuals. Although she has a sort of friend, Judy, who's always ill, she spends all her time and energy on men. She falls in love with a not-so-rich theatre-director, acts in his plays and goes on a bender with him, but ends up the girlfriend of a kind (and rich) young painter. However, still in love with the director, she goes off to St Jean de Luz with him and two others, and gets involved with people making a film about a bullfighter. Finally she discovers the director is horrible and has stolen her passport, goes back to New York and marries a rich film-director.

The style's a skazzy, Catcher-in-the-Rye-inspired first person, with some show-off-ness and puns ('foule-ing around'?) that make it feel as if it really were written by a twenty-one-year-old. Plotting is sometimes dodgy - Judy's abrupt improvement at the end, for instance, felt throwaway? - and despite its brilliant start, it seems to run out of steam. But the glamorous settings help, and I felt sympathetic to Sally Jay as someone desperately trying to have a good time amid the sheer nastiness of the fifties, a period when, for instance, it seems that if you saw a woman systematically being beaten up, you didn't even _consider_ reporting it to the police.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Something to treasure!, 5 Mar 2013
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I bought several of these books from the VMC Designer collection as presents and they were all very well received, especially as all the people I bought them for have Kindles!
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The Dud Avocado (VMC)
The Dud Avocado (VMC) by Elaine Dundy (Paperback - 26 Aug 1993)
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